Queen Elizabeth II, Longest-Lived and Longest Reigning British Monarch in History, Dead at 96

"The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon," Buckingham Palace said in a statement Thursday.

Queen Elizabeth II, queen of the United Kingdom and 14 other sovereign countries whose work as the longest-lived and longest-reigning British monarch earned her respect and admiration from around the world, has died. She was 96. 

"The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon," Buckingham Palace said in a statement Thursday.

"The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow," the statement continued, referring for the first time to Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, with their new titles. 

The statement was released on the official website of the Royal Family, which on Thursday was changed to a black background with simple white text, reading, "Queen Elizabeth II," "1926-2022." "The official website of the Royal Family is temporarily unavailable while appropriate changes are made," the only other text on the page beyond the statement read. A visual tribute to the queen was also displayed on the site.

"The death of my beloved Mother, Her Majesty The Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family," the newly appointed King Charles III said in a statement. "We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved Mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.

"During this period of mourning and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which The Queen was so widely held," the king continued. 

Outside Downing Street, Prime Minister Liz Truss said "we are all devastated" at the news of the queen's death, which she called a "huge shock to the nation and the world."

Saying the queen was a "rock on which modern Britain was built," the prime minister added, "Britain is the great country it is today because of her.

"Her devotion to duty is an example to us all," she said.

"Today the Crown passes, as it has done for more than a thousand years, to our new monarch, our new head of state, His Majesty King Charles III," she continued. "With the king's family we mourn the loss of his mother and come together. We offer him our loyalty and devotion, just as his mother devoted so much to us for so long."

Saying the moment marks "the passing of the second Elizabethan age," Truss concluded her statement by saying, "God save the King."

The queen met with Truss on Tuesday. Truss is the 15th prime minister to rise in power during the queen's reign, but due to the queen's condition, they met at Balmoral rather than at Buckingham Palace, as was the lonstanding tradition. 

The queen’s health appeared to begin deteriorating sharply on Thursday. 

“Following further evaluation this morning, The Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement. “The Queen remains comfortable and at Balmoral.” 

Balmoral Castle is the queen’s estate in the Scottish Highlands and where she spent much of her summer.  

The queen’s four children, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, as well as her grandson Prince William, were with her at Balmoral. Prince Charles’ wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, was also by the queen’s side, according to reports. Prince Harry, who was already in the United Kingdom for a charity event, traveled to Balmoral. The Duchess of Cambridge, commonly known as Kate Middleton, remained in Windsor as Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis were in school. Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, remained in London but did not attend the WellChild awards event as originally planned. 

The queen became Monarch of the United Kingdom and Head of the Commonwealth Nations in 1952.  

She surpassed Queen Victoria, her great-great grandmother, to become the longest reigning British monarch in 2015.  

The queen's Platinum Jubilee began in February and marked 70 years since the start of her reign. She renewed her commitment to a lifetime of public service in her Accession Day message, saying, "As I look ahead with a sense of hope and optimism to the year of my Platinum Jubilee, I am reminded of how much we can be thankful for ... This anniversary also affords me a time to reflect on the goodwill shown to me by people of all nationalities, faiths, and ages in this country and around the world over these years. I would like to express my thanks to you all for your support. I remain eternally grateful for, and humbled by, the loyalty and affection that you continue to give me." 

On June 13, she became the second-longest reigning monarch in history with 70 years and 127 days reigned. 

The queen was born on April 21,1926, Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York, first child of Prince Albert and Lady Elizabeth, then styled the Duke and Duchess of York. 

Princess Elizabeth was expected to live a relatively normal, if privileged, life. But all that changed when King Edward VIII abdicated the throne of England to his younger brother Prince Albert in 1936.  

Prince Albert became His Majesty King George VI, making Princess Elizabeth the Heiress Presumptive, next in line to the throne. She was not Heir Apparent because if her parents had a son after her, the laws of the day would have moved Elizabeth down in the line of succession. 

Princess Elizabeth’s life of service and public spotlight started early. At 14, she could be heard in a 1940 radio recording encouraging children living through World War II.  

When she was 18, as WWII continued to rage through Europe, Princess Elizabeth enlisted in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women’s branch of the British Army. She worked as an auto mechanic and truck driver until the war ended in 1945. 

And in 1947, at just 21, Princess Elizabeth vowed to live a life of service. "I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong,” she said.  

By her side was Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, whom she married later that year. 

Their marriage lasted over 73 years until the duke’s death in 2021.  

The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, as they were first styled, welcomed their first two children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, before the death of King George VI.  

Princess Elizabeth ascended the throne on Feb. 6, 1952. She was just 25 years old. 

The coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was the first British coronation to be fully televised, with cameras allowed inside Westminster Abbey.  

It was one of many ways Her Majesty went on to modernize the Monarchy. 

The queen and Prince Philip had two more children, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, making them the first children to be born to a reigning monarch since the era of Queen Victoria. 

After centuries of calculated remoteness, Queen Elizabeth was the first British royal to start the “walk-about,” greeting people face-to-face, rather than being chauffeured from afar.  

Generations of royals have continued this tradition. 

The queen also saw the royal family into the age of technology. In 1957, her annual Christmas message was broadcast on television for the first time. She sent her first tweet in 2014, and posted her first Instagram picture in 2019, signing them both, “Elizabeth R.” 

She was even the first British monarch to pay income taxes. 

Away from official duties, the queen was known to love dogs, especially the corgi and dorgi breeds, as well as horse racing. The queen and Prince Philip had 4 children, 8 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.  

Three males are next in the Windsor line of succession, leaving many wondering if there will ever again come a time when the world says, “God Save The Queen.” 

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